I Love Grilling Meat September 2018

Curing Your Bacon Craving MEAT Insider BACON Challenge September 2018

“It’s a classic salt, sugar, and spice-cured pork bacon that dates back hundreds of years to before we had ‘Prague powder’ pink curing salts.”

think it’s safe to say we all love bacon. Well, most of us love bacon— there are still a few holdouts! The question is: Why aren’t youmaking your own bacon at home? A lot of people shy away from curing and smoking their own bacon because it can seem intimidating. But I can tell you, with a little instruction, it can be as easy as smoking any other cut of meat. Take buckboard bacon, for example. It’s a classic salt, sugar, and spice-cured pork bacon that dates back hundreds of years to before we had “Prague powder”pink curing salts. It’s the kind of bacon early pioneers kept in the back of their chuck wagons as they headed out west, hence the name buckboard referring to a part of the wagons they used for travel. The great thing about buckboard bacon is that it keeps for a long time—which was perfect in the days before the invention of the refrigerator. Keep inmind that when I refer to“buckboard bacon,”I’m referring to the method of cooking the meat rather than a specific cut of meat, because if you google search“buckboard bacon,” you’ll discover that in these modern days people typically refer to it as a cured and cold-smoked meat made fromnon-belly pork cuts. Most buckboard bacon recipes you’ll find online call for the use of pork cuts such as butts or shoulders. This might be a regional thing or popular on the internet, and that’s fine, however, where I come from—and dating back over three generations, back to the days of my grand pappy —we always made our buckboard bacon from pork bellies. I

buckboard bacon. As I always say,“To each his own,”because the only thing that matters is what you and your family like to eat. The secret to good buckboard bacon is your patience with the process. It’s a process that takes two to three weeks. I always make my buckboard bacon in the fall when it regularly gets below 40 degrees but doesn’t hit freezing. When the temps get below 40, you can cure your meat in a garage or right outside just by wrapping it in cheesecloth. (More on that in the buckboard bacon recipe inside this issue.) Every region around the country has that sweet spot for the perfect outside temperature. Though, if it does dip below freezing, that’s okay; you’ll just have to add another day to the curing process. Cold smoking for buckboard bacon is simply keeping the smoker temperature below 100 degrees— ideally right around 95 degrees, though you can take it a little lower. Cold smoking is done to avoid cooking the bacon, because you want to fry it up later. Even better, cold smoking really helps incorporate the flavors you want to get in there. Now, a lot of people want to know the difference between buckboard bacon and other types of bacon. In this case, what sets it apart from a typical maple bacon? The answer is curing.

Buckboard bacon cures for two to three weeks. Maple bacon (just like the recipe you’ll find on page 4), cures for about seven days, though some people will only cure it for three to four days. Another question people ask is: What is the difference between home-cured bacon and store-bought bacon? The bacon you buy in the store is cured and smoked in about three days. They pump their pork bellies full of curing chemicals, then spray the meat with the same cure. Then they use sawdust to fuel the smoke. In short, it’s very industrialized. If you’ve never made bacon before, buckboard bacon is a great place to start. Then, from there, you can experiment with different flavors. The truth is that there are a lot of options out there for bacon. You can even leave the skin on, if you want! I do occasionally get my pork bellies with the skin on. Again,“To each his own,”because it’s all about your personal preference. Take a look at this month’s recipes and give one, or both, a shot. It’s hard to go wrong with bacon — that’s why I always have some on hand!

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with using pork shoulders, butts, or bellies tomake your

–Danny McTurnan 1 grillingandsmokingassociation.org


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